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TESTIMONY OF A FORMER CHARISMATIC PASTOR ABOUT PROPHECY

by Neil Babcox
What did I feel as I heard the prophecies during these conferences? My own feelings are described by a man named Neil Babcox, a man who served as pastor of a Pentecostal church until leaving the movement. Consider the testimony of this man who once gave prophecies himself and who believed in these things:
Prophetic messages were quite common at our church. In fact, whenever we assembled to worship, spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, were foremost in our minds. Even though we followed no prescribed liturgy, there was an unwritten order of worship that always included the opportunity for one to prophesy according to the proportion of his faith.
Our prophecies seldom if ever predicted the future. Instead they took the form of fervent exhortations or simple words of comfort. Generally they consisted of various biblical phrases and fragments pieced together like a patchwork quilt. Often they focused upon such themes as the imminent return of Christ or God’s forgiving love. Most of the time the prophecies were spoken in the first person as if God Himself were addressing us, but occasionally the phrase “thus saith the Lord” was used even as it was by the prophets of the Bible.
There was something distinctly romantic about the notion of prophesying. There you are standing in succession to the prophets of the Bible. Samuel and Elijah saw your day coming and were glad. True, your lips are unclean, but they have been touched by a live coal from off the altar. Like Isaiah, you have heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And you responded, “Here am I. Send me!”
Yes, it was all very romantic. But gradually, what had started as a romantic venture, an idealistic quest for spiritual gifts, was slowly, imperceptibly changing. Into what, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that the excitement and romance of prophesying was turning into an uneasy sense that the prophecies I heard, including my own, were hardly worthy of the name. The idea that they were the words of the Living God was beginning to seem painfully ludicrous. Would the romance now become a comedy of errors, or a tragedy, perhaps? At any rate, one thing was certain: this burden of the prophets was becoming a crushing, onerous weight. And I couldn’t help wondering if the weight which I was carrying was not the burden of the Lord at all, but some foreign yoke of bondage.
In my case there were four simple words that played a decisive role in changing my heart: Thus saith the Lord. To me, these were most unsettling words. And the more I comprehended their meaning, the more I understood what the prophets meant when they spoke them and what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired them, the more unsettling they became.
“Thus saith the Lord.” What abuses I had seen of those words! what bitter fruit I had seen born by men and women speaking these words! I have seen people married on the basis of guidance received from personal prophecies only to be divorced a week later because of a terrible scandal. Many lives have been harmed by such prophetic guidance. What actions, what conduct, have been countenanced by a “thus saith the Lord.”
The moment of truth came when I heard a prophecy spoken at a charismatic church I was visiting. I was sitting in the church trying to worship God while dreading the approach of that obligatory moment of silence which signaled that a prophecy was about to be spoken. The silence came, and soon it was broken by a bold and commanding “Thus saith the Lord!”
Those words triggered an immediate reaction. Conviction, like water rising against a dam, began to fill my soul. “Listen my people.” …[the prophesy commenced] Until finally, the dam burst: “This is not my God,” I cried within my heart. “this is not my Lord!” (Neil Babcox, A Search for Charismatic Reality – One Man’s Pilgrimage, pp. 46-59)

Roman Catholic Asceticism
Dec 26, 2013

December 26, 2013 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)

The following is from the book CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND. Contemplative mysticism, which originated with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monasticism, is permeating every branch of Christianity today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. In this book we document the fact that Catholic mysticism leads inevitably to a broadminded ecumenical philosophy and to the adoption of heresies. For many, this path has led to interfaith dialogue, Buddhism, Hinduism, universalism, pantheism, panentheism, even goddess theology. One chapter is dedicated to exposing the heresies of Richard Foster: “Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug.” We describe the major contemplative practices, such as centering prayer, visualizing prayer, Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, and the Labyrinth. We look at the history of Roman Catholic Monasticism, beginning with the Desert Fathers and the Church Fathers, and document the heresies associated with it, such as its sacramental gospel, rejection of the Bible as sole authority, veneration of Mary, purgatory, celibacy, asceticism, allegoricalism, and moral corruption. We examine the errors of contemplative mysticism, such as downplaying the centrality of the Bible, ignoring the fact that multitudes of professing Christians are not born again, exchanging the God of the Bible for a blind idol, ignoring the Bible’s warnings against associating with heresy and paganism, and downplaying the danger of spiritual delusion. In the Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics we look at the lives and beliefs of 60 of the major figures in the contemplative movement, including Benedict of Nursia, Bernard of Clairvaux, Brother Lawrence, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Siena, Dominic, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, Madame Guyon, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Keating, Thomas a Kempis, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, John Michael Talbot, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Lisieux, and Dallas Willard. The book contains an extensive index. 482 pages. Contemplative Mysticism is available in print and eBook formats, http://www.wayoflife.orgRoman Catholic Asceticism

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Rome’s Desert Fathers and mystic “saints” practiced extreme asceticism. Many doubtless put themselves into an early grave. Hildegard’s “strict practices of fasting and self-punishment, resulted in a lifetime of health problems and migraine headaches” (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 55). John of the Cross so abused his body that, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “twice he was saved from certain death by the intervention of the Blessed Virgin.”

After a study of the desert monastics, we tend to agree with Edward Gibbon, the famous historian of the Roman Empire. He described the typical desert monk as a “distorted and emaciated maniac … spending his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain.” Gibbon said, “They were sunk under the painful weight of crosses and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).

The ascetic practices have many purposes, but none of them are scriptural.

They were thought to be necessary for salvation and sanctification. Pio of Pietrelcina said: “Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. … The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for one’s whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts” (“Mortification of the Flesh,” Wikipedia).

Ascetic practices are also thought to be necessary as part of the path to ecstatic union with God. We have seen that self-denial and self-injury composed the first step in the three-step path to mystical union.

Ascetic practices are also thought to be necessary as penance for sin. In his Spiritual Exercises Ignatius of Loyola taught that penance requires “chastising the body by inflicting sensible pain on it” through “wearing hairshirts, cords, or iron chains on the body, or by scourging or wounding oneself, and by other kinds of austerities” (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, First Week, Vintage Spiritual Classics, p. 31). Pope John XXIII wrote: “But the faithful must be encouraged to do outward acts of penance, both to keep their bodies under the strict control of reason and faith, and to make amends for their own and other people’s sins” (Paenitentiam Agere, July 1, 1962). Yet we know that the believer’s sin is forgiven through the blood of Christ and not through his own self-effort and sacrifice (1 John 1:9).

Ascetic practices are further thought to be necessary because the body and its physical pleasures are evil. John of the Cross, one of the most acclaimed of the Catholic mystical theologians, considered physical existence, with all its attendant needs and desires, as inherently sinful (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 148). Francis of Assisi called his own body “Brother Ass.” This error goes back to the Platonic and gnostic philosophy that was imbibed by the Desert Fathers and Church Fathers.

Some of the common ascetic practices of the monastic mystics were as follows:

Extreme fasting

For part of her life Catherine of Siena lived exclusively on the wine and wafer of the Mass. Peter of Alcantara, who was Teresa of Avila’s spiritual director, ate only once in three days at the most. The diet in many monasteries is meager. Consider the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. The monks subsist on a small amount of food for part of the year and are never allowed to eat meat, fish, or eggs.

Self-flagellation 

Dominic Loricatus (995-1060), a Benedictine monk, lashed himself 300,000 times with a whip in one six-day period (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. V). He did this while reciting the Psalms, 100 lashes for each psalm. Catherine of Siena scourged herself three times a day with an iron chain. Theresa of the Child Jesus “scourged herself with all the strength and speed of which she was capable, smiling at the crucifix through her tears.” Hildegard of Bingen recommended “maceration of the flesh, and heavy beatings” to ward off lascivious lusts.

Hairshirts

A hairshirt was something uncomfortable worn next to the skin. Commonly it was made of some uncomfortable fabric such as horsehair, but some were made of metal. Henry Suso’s loins were covered with scars from his horsehair shirt. He also devised an undergarment studded with 150 sharp brass nails that pierced his skin. Dominic Loricatus and Ignatius of Loyola wore hairshirts of chain mail.

Bindings

Ignatius had the habit of binding a cord below the knee. The seers of Fatima wore tight cords around their waists. Catherine of Siena wrapped a chain with crosses around her body so tightly that it caused her to bleed; it is described as an “iron spiked girdle.” “Her self-punishment left her body covered with gaping wounds, which she blithely referred to as her ‘flowers'” (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 81).

Foregoing hygiene 

Anthony never bathed his body nor even washed his feet. Henry Suso didn’t take a bath in 25 years. For a while Ignatius of Loyola didn’t bathe, wore rags, and let his hair and nails grow “wildly out of control.” In the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, Thomas Merton’s order, monks are allowed to wash their robes only once a month and they can take showers only by permission of the abbot. It should be called the order of stinky.

Sleep depravation

Catherine of Siena allowed herself only one-half hour of sleep every other day on a hard board. No wonder she had strange visions! Peter of Alcantara slept only one and a half hours a day for 40 years. Catherine of Genoa slept as little as possible and then on a bed covered with briars and thistles.

Silence and solitude

Silence and solitude is a big part of Catholic monastic asceticism. The hermit Theon, one of the “desert fathers,” kept silent for thirty years. Abbot Moses told a young man who asked for guidance, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything” (The Way of the Mystics, p. 24). Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese order, says the hermit must “sit in his cell like a chick, and destroy himself completely” (Talbot, Come to the Quiet, p. 22). Cistercian monks take vows of silence and communicate among themselves only by sign language. Teresa of Avila demanded that the nuns in her order not talk to each other or be together except when eating and worshiping. She said, “Each one should be alone in her cell” (The Way of Perfection, chap. 4, p. 29).

Separation from relatives 

Many of the monasteries and convents disallowed the monks and nuns to associate with their relatives. Teresa of Lisieux and her four sisters were nuns in Carmelite convents, and when their father had a series of strokes that left him severely handicapped, they were not allowed to visit him. This is contrary to God’s command to honor and care for one’s own near relations (1 Tim. 5:8).

Paul warned that some would turn from the faith and teach the doctrines of demons, and he identified two of these doctrines as “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

A plainer description of Catholic monastic asceticism has never been written!

Paul warned about asceticism in Colossians 2:20-23.

The ascetics find biblical support for their practices in Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:27 — “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

But nowhere does Paul say that he performed the type of asceticism that is practiced by the Catholic monastics. He listed many things that he suffered, but for the most part they were things that he was subjected to by outside forces and by dint of the performance of his preaching ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Paul was not punishing his body and ruining his health through mindless asceticism.

In the New Testament, fasting is not a way of punishing oneself; it is a matter of spiritual warfare (Matthew 17:19-21).

Further, Paul was not talking about his salvation or his sanctification but about his ministry. Paul was concerned that he would be a castaway in the sense that he would be put on a shelf in this life so that he could no longer exercise his ministry and/or that his service would be rejected, disapproved at the judgment seat of Christ. The same Greek word is translated “rejected.” Paul was not afraid that he would be lost. In the same epistle he taught that Christ preserves the believer (1 Cor. 1:7-9). What Paul feared was falling short of God’s high calling for his life. The context makes this plain. He is talking about running a race and winning a prize.

To confuse 1 Corinthians 9:27 with salvation is to misunderstand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a reward for faithful service. The Bible plainly states that salvation is by grace, and grace is the free, unmerited mercy of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Anything that is merited or earned, is not grace (Romans 11:6). On the other hand, after we are saved by the marvelous grace of God, we are called to serve Jesus Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). If a believer is lazy and carnal, he will be chastened by the Lord (Heb. 12:6-8), and if he does not respond, God will take him home (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16).

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Except Ye Repent
By Dr. Harry Ironside

Pastor Harry A. Ironside

Chapter 11 – DOES GOD EVER REPENT?

In the history of Jehovah’s dealings with the people of Israel there is perhaps no story more affecting than that of Balak’s effort to induce Balaam to curse them when they were encamped on the plains of Moab. The faithless prophet who loved the wages of unrighteousness was eager to comply with the wicked king’s request, but was hindered each time he attempted to curse the people, by the Spirit of God. At last he confessed his inability to do the thing for which he had been called to Moab and instead of cursing Israel he blessed them, and foretold their glorious future in such a manner as to stir the ire of Balak, and to move the hearts of God’s saints to devout thanksgiving. He introduced the narration of the divine purpose concerning the tribes of Israel, with the remarkable words: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it” (Numbers 23:19-20).

This is surely a marvellous declaration. It tells us that once God enters into an unconditional covenant with any people He will never call back His words. And He had definitely confirmed just such a covenant with Abraham. This was before the giving of the Law. The legal covenant they had a part in, and they failed to keep what they had promised. Only a few days later we read of the terrible sin of Baal-peor. On the ground of law they forfeited everything, and that covenant God Himself abrogated. But His covenant with Abraham was pure grace. He was the only contracting party. Whatever Israel’s failures, He could not break His promise. He had bound Himself by an oath and He would not and could not repent, or reverse His decision. His attitude of grace through the promised seed would persist throughout the ages.

How comforting this is to the heart of one who has turned to Him for refuge. He may be assured that “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). A careful reading of the entire dispensational section of the Roman Epistle, chapters 9, 10, and 11, in which we have, respectively, God’s past, present, and future dealings with Israel, will make this doubly clear. Yet it is singular how many read with blinded minds and fail to get the truth that the Holy Spirit seeks to reveal. Only recently a tract was mailed to me on the subject of salvation. The writer sought to show that, while in past ages, even in what he called “the Pentecostal dispensation of the early part of the book of the Acts,” repentance had a place in the preaching of the Gospel as then made known, a very different Gospel was revealed to Paul in his later years, in which repentance had no part. And to prove his amazing theory he quoted as a proof text the words above referred to, “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”

The interpretation he gave to this verse was that now God gives salvation to believers whom He calls by His grace, on the basis of sovereign mercy alone, and altogether apart from any repentance on their side. Do my readers exclaim, ‘What almost unbelievable ignorance?’ Yet I have heard others affirm the same foolish thing. It shows how carelessly even good men sometimes read the text of Holy Scripture.

The Apostle’s argument is clear as crystal. God made certain promises to Abraham. Israel sought those blessings by works of law and failed, so they forfeited everything on that ground. Temporarily the nation is set to one side, and is partially blinded to the true meaning of the very Scriptures in which they glory. Meantime God is active in grace toward Gentiles, saving all who believe. In the same way He is now saving individual Jews, though the nation as such is no longer in the place of the covenant. But by and by when Israel shall turn to the Lord, they shall be grafted into their own olive tree again and brought into fulness of blessing. And the proof that it must be so is this: When God gives a gift or makes a promise to bless He will never reverse Himself. He will not change His attitude, for His gifts and callings are without repentance. It is the same as the declaration of Balaam, “He is not a man that he should lie nor the son of man that he should repent.”

But what then shall we say of such a Scripture as Genesis 6:5-7: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them”? Here God is distinctly said to repent, and His attitude toward man is completely changed. In place of longsuffering mercy He acts in condign judgment, blotting out the corruption and violence of the antediluvian world by destroying the human race with a flood, excepting that Noah and his house were saved in the ark. Is there a contradiction here? Do Genesis and Numbers teach oppositely the one to the other? We may be sure they do not.

In the first place, we need to remember that the same human author, Moses, who wrote the one book wrote the other also. He evidently saw no discrepancy, nothing incongruous or contradictory, in the two statements. And in the second place, back of Moses was God. The human writer spoke as he was moved by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we know there can be no mistake or erroneous conclusion.

Is not the explanation simply this: In Genesis we have a figure of speech in which God is represented as reasoning like a man. This is what theologians call an anthropomorphism, that is, God, acting in the manner of man. And it has to do, not with a promise made or a covenant of grace given, but with His attitude toward a sinful race. They had plunged into evil of the most repellent nature; so much so that God Himself abhorred them. He changed in His behavior toward them and destroyed them instead of preserving them alive in their vileness and corruption. Often has He thus dealt with sinful nations and individuals.

But where His pledged word has been given, He never repents. “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed.” How wondrous the grace that shines out in words such as these! Not all the waywardness of His people can make Him change His mind, once He has given His promise, or cause Him to alter His attitude toward them when He has entered into covenant with them.

It is because of Christ and because of His redemptive work that He, the Holy One, can thus bless a sinful nation. And concerning Christ Himself, who has become the Mediator of the New Covenant, He declares: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Psalm 110:4). Thus has our blessed Lord been confirmed as “a surety of a better testament” than that of legal works. He is the Man of God’s purpose, who represents all His people before the throne in heaven, and in whom all the promises of God are “yea and amen.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the “exact expression of his [that is, God’s] character” (Heb. 1:3, literal rendering); therefore we are not surprised to find that there is no such thing as repentance in His attitude toward the Father or toward mankind. Horace Bushnell years ago, in his Character of Jesus, drew attention to the essential difference between His piety and that of all others who profess His Name. We are sinners, and we must come to God as such if we would ever be saved at all. Therefore we come to Him confessing our iniquities and bowing before Him in repentance. It was thus the publican in the parable came. “God,” he exclaimed, “be propitious to me the sinner.” Propitiation was made on the cross. But our attitude of soul must still be the same as his. We come confessing we are without merit and trusting in Him who is the propitiation for our sins. Until we take this position before God we cannot really know Him as Father, and so enter into fellowship with Him.

But the piety of Jesus was on a totally different basis. He never confessed a sin either against God or man, in thought or word or deed. He taught others to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” But He could never join with them in the use of such words. In fact, nothing brings out more clearly the essential difference between Him and us than the amazing fact that He is never found praying with anyone. Some of our most blessed experiences are enjoyed as we bow reverently and penitently before God with fellow believers, together acknowledging our mutual needs and confessing our common sins. But He never had any such experiences. He prayed for others, not with them, because His relationship was different from ours. He was “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And He prayed as the Son in manhood, who was nevertheless ever dwelling in the bosom of the Father. Hence He never shed one tear over His own sins or shortcomings, for He had none. He wept for those of others, but never for His own. His was “piety without one dash of repentance,” to quote Bushnell again. He never sought for forgiveness. He never owned the need of grace. For He was ever the unblemished, spotless Lamb of God, perfect without and within, who came into the world to offer Himself without spot unto God, for our redemption.

If any have not yet sensed the vast chasm separating His holy humanity from our poor, fallen, sinful nature, let them weigh these things carefully. “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But He definitely challenged His bitterest foes to give evidence that He had come short in anything. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” To this day none have ever been able to reply to this challenge by pointing out one flaw in His life, one defect in His character, or one error in His judgment. He never retracted anything. He never said, “I am sorry.” He never apologized for any offense committed. He could say, “I do always those things that please him.” And it was this very perfection of His character that fitted Him to make expiation for our guilt. God “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2nd Corinthians 5:21).

It is true that, as Captain of our salvation He was perfected through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10). As to His nature He was perfect throughout. From babyhood to His death upon the cross He was the Holy One. But if He would become our Redeemer He must win the title by His sufferings. Only in this sense could He be said to be perfected. He who had always commanded, deigned to take the servant’s form and “to learn obedience” as He walked this scene in holy subjection to the Father’s will. “I came,” He said, “not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” And such delight did the Father have in this perfect devotion of Jesus that He twice opened the heavens to declare, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”

Surely the more we contemplate with adoring love His matchless perfections, the lower we will bow in humiliation before Him, confessing our sins and repenting, like Job, in sackcloth and ashes. It was the revelation of the wisdom and majesty of God that brought the patriarch of old to that place. How much more may we be humbled as we behold His love and holiness meeting in Christ. In Him “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” His cross reveals, as nothing else could, our sinfulness and His Holy love. If God has so loved us as thus to give His Son to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, how can we ever doubt His intention to save eternally all who bow in repentance before Him and put in their plea as sinners and trust His matchless grace?

Having “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” He knew all we were, yea, all we would ever be, when He put us in Christ, and nothing now will ever cause Him to repent or to change His attitude toward us. It is not humility to doubt Him, and to wonder whether He will really bring us through to heaven at last. On the contrary, it is downright unbelief. “Hath he spoken, and shall he not do it?” Faith sets its seal to what God has said and rests serenely upon that inviolable pledge knowing that “God is not a man, that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent.”

It is true, He will not be indifferent to our sins as believers. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” But he will never cast us off, however severely He may have to chastise us if we persist in willfully disobeying His Word.

The principle on which He deals with erring believers is clearly set forth in Psalm 89:27-36: “Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.”

He hath promised His Son to take all to glory who put their trust in Him. He will discipline them if wayward; but He will never cast them off, for the blood of the cross has settled the sin question eternally for all who believe.

Listen to Paul’s exultant words (Romans 8:38-39): “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What is there that is neither a thing present, nor a thing to come? What is there that is included neither in life nor in death? Could stronger words be used to assure us that God will never repent of His purpose of grace in Christ Jesus?

What we need to see, then, is that He who created man might well repent that He had made him when He saw the depth of wickedness into which the race had fallen, and so He determined to blot them out in the judgment of the flood, as later on His patience came to an end with the corrupt inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain after He had (to use another Biblical anthropomorphism) come down to see if they were as bad as had been reported. He gave Canaan to seven great and powerful nations, but when at last the iniquity of the Amorites was full, He used the armies of Israel to destroy them. As Moral Governor of the universe He has used one nation to chastise another, and then in turn punished the people thus used, when they too became as vile as, or worse than, those they had destroyed. In all such instances it may be said that “it repented the Lord that he had made man,” or permitted certain blessings to be lavished upon him. But when He gives His pledged word to deliver and to bless, He never repents. His promises are irrevocable, because based on what He is Himself, not on what man deserves.

In the stirring little book of the prophet Hosea, God is portrayed as still yearning over Israel, even after He has decreed their judgment. Likening them to the cities of the plain, destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah, because of their wickedness, He cries, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboiim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city” (Hosea 11:8-9). This is most heart moving. He who will never repent when He promises blessing is pictured as repenting concerning the predicted doom of His people. He would, as it were, alter His attitude toward them if they would but change theirs toward Him. It is enough to stir the soul to its depths; yet on Israel’s part there was no response, and judgment had to take its course.

But the future holds promise of a glorious recovery. All, even of the rejected nation, who have personally sought His face in blessing will have part in resurrection glory. So God gives the gracious assurance of Hosea 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Nothing shall ever take place in all the ages to come that will invalidate or alter His settled purpose of grace. Repentance shall be hid from His eyes. That is, He will never, by any possibility, change His attitude toward those whom He has redeemed to Himself.

“His is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above,
Deeper than the depths beneath,
True and faithful, strong as death.”

[Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948]

Is Christmas Purely a Pagan Holiday

By: ATRI Staff Writer; ©2005
What business does a Christian have celebrating Christmas, since the Bible gives no date for Christ’s birth? Isn’t Christmas as we know it only an old pagan holiday? If so, why should we celebrate Christmas?

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Is Christmas Purely a Pagan Holiday?

“Don’t get a symbologist started on Christian icons. Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras—called the Son of God and the Light of the World-was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans.” Professor Teabing, in Dan Brown, The DaVinci Code[1]

What business does a Christian have celebrating Christmas, since the Bible gives no date for Christs birth? Isnt Christmas as we know it only an old pagan holiday? If so, why should we celebrate Christmas?

Firstly, the objection implies that we must know the exact date of Jesus’ birth in order to be “biblical.” Secondly, it suggests that any celebration or remem­brance of “Christmas” is necessarily un-Christian.

In reply to the first issue, historically, no exact date can be affirmed as the day of Christ’s birth.

But the absence of such exactness does not imply that Jesus is “therefore not a historical person.” There is ample historical confirmation of the names, events and places concerning the birth, life and ministry of Jesus. Together, these pro­vide proof of His historicity as well as the context for a “historical best guess” concerning the date of His birth.

The absence of an exact date does not, in and of itself, provide sufficient argument against the celebration of Christmas.

As for “pagan” influence, several objections have been raised. Some maintain that Christmas is a “pagan holiday celebrated 2,000 years before the birth of Christ [which] crept into the Christianity of the western world.” They add to that, “Your eternal destiny depends on” whether you celebrate Christmas or not.

Others have argued that October 4 was Christ’s real birthday so we should not celebrate on December 25 (the date of his conception, according to one group); that the symbols of Christmas are all pagan; and that nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to celebrate Christ’s birth. Therefore we should not.

So what shall we say?

First, if it is a particular day (December 25, for example) that creates the problem, it is not likely that anyday can be found on which some “pagan” isn’t already celebrating something. If a day is rendered “off limits” because a pagan holiday already exists on that date, then there aren’t any days left to celebrate anything!

On the objection that the New Testament nowhere commands a celebration of Christ’s birthday, it is an argument from silence, and this silence is insufficient to justify the objection.

In contrast there is evidence that God condoned and even appointed times of joyful celebration for His people. Under the heading of “Festivals,” Unger’s Bible Dictionary says,

Besides the daily worship, the law prescribed special festivals to be from time to time observed by the congregation. One Hebrew name for festival was hag (from the verb signifying to “dance”), which, when applied to religious services, indicated that they were occasions of joy and gladness. The term most fitly designating, and which alone actually comprehended all the feasts, was mo’ed, (a “set time” or “assembly, place of assembly”). What is meant by this name, therefore, was the stated assemblies of the people—the occasions fixed by the divine appointment for their being called and meeting together in holy fellowship, i.e., for acts and purposes of worship.

The recurring festivals of Israel include a feast at the beginning of each new civil year (Feast of Trumpets) and a yearly remembrance of Israel’s deliverances: from Egypt (Passover), and the deliverance under Queen Esther from Haaman’s treachery (Purim, which means “lots”).

A careful check of what the Bible says about Israel’s festivals makes it clear that God intended these times to be joyous. In remembering God’s mighty acts, and in company with God’s people, we have all the occasion we need for a great time.

Back to the point. Not only is the argument that “God nowhere commands it” one from silence, it is also one from ignorance of what God has done and ap­proved among His own people. There is plenty of precedent for celebration. And it is fitting and proper for an event as important as the Incarnation to be remem­bered by God-fearing people. Any date is fine. No day is in and of itself “good” or “bad,” though the time allotted to us can be used for good or bad ends (See Romans 14:5,6). The day is not the issue. Our behavior on any given day is.

Concerning why the Christian Church generally regards December 25 as the day to honor Christ’s birth, it appears historically to be an alternative to a pagan feast. In early Rome, the Feast of Saturnalia (a truly pagan feast dedi­cated to Saturn, Roman god of planting and harvest. The word “Saturnalia” indicates a licentious feast—Baker’s Dictionary of Religion) was generally held late in December. Gift-giving and general merriment were the order of the holi­day. It appears that in response to its secular and pagan tone, the Christian community provided an alternative. God’s faithful used the “time off” for the remembrance of Christ’s birth while their secular neighbors were celebrating on their own.

A modern-day illustration of this last point is found in the alternatives provided by some churches and Christian families to Halloween or Mardi Gras—“pagan” holidays on which activities suited to a Christian confession and lifestyle are substituted.

Again, it is not the day itself that is the problem. It is our use of it. It can be just as wrong for one to refrain from celebrating a holiday but scorn a godly fellow-Christian, as it would be to indulge the flesh as a Christian in “pagan” celebration.

Regarding the symbolism employed at Christmas, care must be taken to be sure whether our present symbols are in fact “pagan” in their content. For ex­ample.

It may well be that the Christmas tree, yule log, etc., were at some point “pa­gan.” In our culture, however, they could be more a reflection of, and a sentimen­tal return to, the early pioneer days when without a yule log you would freeze to death.

A tree today may only be a symbol without any “deeper” meaning. To millions of people, the only “meaning” of the tree is the holiday itself. To assign it anything else would be incorrect and/or confusing.

BUT WHAT IF December 25 is in fact a pagan holiday, and all the symbols are pagan, and the gift-giving is more a distraction than a reflection of God’s Gift to us?

First, these facts do not obligate me or any other Christian to be “pagan” at any time. We are each free to choose how we shall remember the Lord’s birth— or even if we shall remember it at all. And whichever we choose, none of us is to be “pagan” either in our choice or in our treatment of those who disagree with us.

Next, and in effect, the “flip-side” of the question: If there is no distinctly “Chris­tian” symbolism in a decorated evergreen, then, though it may be fine to have one in our homes, the least we should do is ask what place, if any, they have in our houses of worship. Some food for thought.

Which brings up the final, and perhaps most important, matter of how to handle a disagreement with another Christian on this subject. Romans 14 gives us some guidelines.

The context (in Romans 14) has to do with disagreements between Christians on issues where Scripture and revelation are not “hard and fast.” Special days is one such issue.

FirstRomans 14:5,6 leaves room for celebrating Christmas, or Easter, or whatever special day we select. A Christian is free to celebrate or not.

Second: Whatever we do, it is all to be done unto the Lord (unselfishly as an act of worship), and according to the dictates of a Godly conscience. That as­sumes, of course, that what is done is not contrary to Scripture (see Rom. 14:8).

Third: No brother is to condemn another believer in areas where God does not condemn (see Rom. 14:13a).

Finally: We are not to do anything in such a way as to cause an offense to another believer whose conscience and convictions differ from our own. Note Rom. 14:13b. (Note that this does not prohibit me from celebrating Christmas just because my Christian brother objects. It does prohibit me from celebrating only to show him up or to flaunt my freedom to his harm.)

Paul touches on the matter once more in Colossians 2 where he reminds us that Christ has set us free from the law (law-keeping for merit). Therefore, no believer has the prerogative of judgment over us (Col. 2:16). We must also guard against false spirituality that makes us count ourselves “better” than another because our consciences differ (Col. 2:17).

In conclusion: It is good and proper for the Christian to celebrate the birth of Christ. Each is free to choose the day and manner of his celebration so long as conscience permits and Scripture is not violated. But none of us is free to con­demn another where his conscience or convictions differ from our own.

Note

  1.  Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003), p. 232.

Noah’s Ark

Dec 19, 2013

December 19, 2013 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org

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A description of the ark (Gen. 6:14-16)

The word “ark” refers to a box-like vessel. The ark was a modified box-shaped craft like a modern oil tanker. It was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high (Gen. 6:15). Given a cubit of 18 inches, this would have been 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high.

It was three stories high (Gen. 5:16).

It had one window and one door (Gen. 6:16).

It was made of gopher wood and pitched within and without so that it was watertight (Gen. 6:14). Though we do not know what gopher wood was, it is obvious that it was a strong and pliable wood suitable for the purpose. The pitch was some sort of waterproofing, such as the slime or bitumen that was used in building the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:3).

The sea-worthiness of the ark

Was it stable enough and strong enough to withstand the raging sea?

1. The Bible says that God instructed Noah how to build the ark, and those who believe in an Almighty, All-wise God have no problem believing that He could construct an ark that was strong enough to do this job.

2. Further, about 1,600 years had passed since creation, and the technological level of man was doubtless very advanced. Adam’s first sons were skilled in city building, metal working, agriculture, music, etc. (Gen. 4:20-22). Men lived to long ages then and had one language so knowledge would have increased rapidly. At the Tower of Babel, God said that because of man’s intelligence and unified language, “nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). The Creation Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, has a large section that demonstrates how that men in ancient times had the knowledge to build wooden vessels with multi-layered hulls that could withstand the conditions encountered by the ark. Though some skeptics have claimed that such a large ship could not be constructed out of wood, in fact ships just as large as the ark existed in ancient times. The third century B.C. Leontifera, a fighting ship with 1,600 rowers, was between 400 and 500 feet long. Another third century B.C. ship, which was built by Ptolemy Philopator to carry 7,250 men, was 420 feet long (“The Large Ships of Antiquity,” Creation ex nihilo, June 2000).

3. The ark’s dimensions were perfect. The ratio of length to breadth was 6 to 1. Some giant oil tankers are 7 to 1. A model of the ark made by Peter Jansen of Holland proved that it was almost impossible to capsize (John Whitcomb, The World that Perished, p. 24).

The size of the ark

Was the ark large enough to carry all of the animals?

1. Noah only needed to carry a representative of each major kind of creature and not every variety within the kinds.

2. The following is a description of the ark if the cubit was 18 inches: “Its carrying capacity equaled that of 522 standard railroad stock cars (each of which can hold 240 sheep). Only 188 cars would be required to hold 45,000 sheep-sized animals, leaving three trains of 104 cars each for food, Noah’s family, and ‘range’ for the animals. Today it is estimated that there are 17,600 species of animals, making 45,000 a likely approximation of the number Noah might have taken into the Ark” (Ryrie Study Bible).

3. It is also possible that the cubit in Genesis 6 was larger than 18 inches, which would mean that the ark would have been even larger than the previous description. “The Babylonians had a ‘royal’ cubit of about 19.8 inches, the Egyptians had a longer and a shorter cubit of about 20.65 inches and 17.6 inches respectively, while the Hebrews apparently had a long cubit of 20.4 inches (Ezek. 40:5) and a common cubit of about 17.5 inches” (R.B.Y. Scott, “Weights and Measures of the Bible,” The Biblical Archaeologist, May 1959, pp. 22-27, summarized by Whitcomb and Morris, The Genesis Flood).

4. As for the dinosaurs, their average size, based on the fossil record, was the size of a sheep or small pony (Ken Ham, The New Answers Book, p. 167, quoting M. Crichton, The Lost World, p. 122). Struthiomimus, for example, was the size of an ostrich, and Compsognathus was the size of a chicken. Thus, only some of them were overly large, and of these, Noah could have taken the eggs or he could have taken juveniles. Even the largest dinosaurs were small when first hatched. Since reptiles can grow as long as they live, the large dinosaurs from the fossil record were probably very old ones (The New Answers Book). “There were probably fewer than 50 distinct groups or kinds of dinosaurs that had to be on the Ark” (The New Answers Book, p. 168).

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God Calling….Jesus Calling…. These books are deceptions…..

Matthew Henry

A plain teaching for children.

Q. 1. What must you do in the days of your youth?
A. I must remember my Creator.

Q. 2. Who is your Creator?
A. The great God who made the world.

Q. 3. Who is your preserver?
A. The same God, who made me, preserves and maintains me; and in him I live, and move, and have my being.

Q. 4. What are you made and maintained for?
A. To glorify God.

Q. 5. What do you believe concerning this God?
A. I believe that he is an infinite and eternal spirit, most wise, and powerful, holy, just, and good.
Q. 6. How many Gods are there?
A. There is but one God.

Q. 7. How many persons are there in the godhead?
A. Three: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and these three are one.

Q. 8. What is your duty to this God as your Creator?
A. It is my duty to fear and honour him, to worship and obey him, and in all my ways to trust in him, and to please him.

Q. 9. What is the rule of your faith and obedience?
A. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, which we call the Bible.

Q. 10. What is the excellency of that book?
A. It is the word of God.

Q. 11. What use will it be of to you?
A. It is able to make me wise to salvation.
Part II. — Of our Misery by Sin, and our Redemption by Christ.

Q. 12. Who were your first parents?
A. Adam and Eve, from whom we are all descended.

Q. 13. What condition did God create them in?
A. Holy and happy.

Q. 14. How did they lose their holiness and happiness?
A. By their disobedience to the command of God, in eating the forbidden fruit.

Q. 15. What condition are we all born in?
A. Sinful and miserable.

Q. 16. How do you perceive your condition to be by nature sinful?
A. Because I find I am naturally prone to that which is evil, and backward to that which is good; and foolishness is bound up in my heart.

Q. 17. How do you perceive your condition to be by nature miserable?
A. Because I find myself liable to many troubles in this life; and the Scripture tells me, I am by nature a child of wrath.

Q. 18. What would become of you then without a Saviour?
A. I should be certainly lost and undone for ever.

Q. 19. Who is it that saves us out of this sad condition?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and Man.

Q. 20. Who was Jesus Christ?
A. The eternal Son of God.

Q. 21. What did he do to redeem and save us?
A. He took our nature upon him, and became man.

Q. 22. What life did he live in that nature?
A. A life of perfect holiness, leaving us an example.

Q. 23. What doctrine did he preach?
A. A true and excellent doctrine concerning God and himself, and another world.

Q. 24. What miracles did he work to confirm his doctrine?
A. He healed the sick with a word; raised the dead, cast out devils, and many other the like.

Q. 25. What death did he die?
A. The cursed death of the cross, to satisfy for our sins, and to reconcile us to God.

Q. 26. What became of him after he was dead?
A. He arose again from the dead on the third day, and ascended up into heaven.

Q. 27. Where is he now?
A. He is at the right hand of God, where he ever lives, making intercession for us, and has all power both in heaven and earth.

Q. 28. When will he come again?
A. He will come again in glory, at the last day, to judge the world.
Part III. — Concerning Baptism and the Covenant of Grace.

Q. 29. What relation do you stand in to the Lord Jesus?
A. I am one of his disciples; for I am a baptized Christian.

Q. 30. Into whose name were you baptized?
A. Into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Q. 31. What was the meaning of your being so baptized?
A. I was thereby given up in a covenant-way, to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Q. 32. What was the covenant which was signified and sealed in your baptism?
A. The covenant of grace made with us in Jesus Christ.

Q. 33. What is the sum of that covenant?
A. That God will be in Christ to us a God, and we must be to him a people.

Q. 34. How then must you take the Lord for your God?
A. I must take God the Father for my chief good, and highest end; God the Son, for my Prince and Saviour; and God the Holy Ghost, for my sanctifier, teacher, guide, and comforter.

Q. 35. How must you give up yourself to him to be one of his people?
A. I must deny all ungodliness, and worldly, fleshly lusts, and must resolve to live soberly,
righteously and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope.

Q. 36. What are the three great blessings promised in this covenant?
A. The pardon of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and eternal life.

Q. 37. What are the two conditions of this covenant?
A. Repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.

Q. 38. What is it to repent of your sins?
A. It is to be sorry that I have offended God, in what I have done amiss, and to do so no more.

Q. 39. What is it to believe in Jesus Christ?
A. It is to receive him, and rely upon him as my Prophet, Priest, and King, and to give up myself to be ruled, and taught, and saved by him.

Part IV. — Concerning our Duty to God, Ourselves, and our Neighbour.

Q. 40. How must you evidence the sincerity of your faith and repentance?
A. By a diligent and conscientious obedience to all God’s commandments.

Q. 41. What is the first and great commandment?
A. To love God with all my heart.

Q. 42. What is the second, which is like unto it?
A. To love my neighbour as myself, and to shew it, by doing as I would be done by.

Q. 43. What is the honour you owe to God’s name?
A. I must never take his name in vain; but must always make mention of it with reverence and seriousness.

Q. 44. What is the honour you owe to God’s word?
A. I must read it, and hear it with diligence and attention: I must meditate upon it, believe, and frame my life according to it.

Q. 45. What is the honour you owe to God in his providence?
A. I must receive all his mercies with thankfulness, and I must bear all afflictions with patience, and submission to his holy will.

Q. 46. What is the honour you owe to the Lord’s Day?
A. I must keep the sabbath holy to God, by a diligent performance of the religious duties of the day, both public and private, not speaking my own words, nor doing my own works on that day.

Q. 47. How must you honour God in prayer?
A. I must every day, by solemn prayer, seek the favour of God, and give unto him the glory due unto his name.

Q. 48. In whose name must you pray?
A. In the name of Jesus Christ only.

Q. 49. What must you pray for?
A. For mercy to pardon, and grace to help in the time of need.

Q. 50. What else must you do in your prayers?
A. I must confess my sins, and give God praise for his goodness to me.

Q. 51. What must be your daily care concerning your own soul?
A. I must take care that my heart be not lifted up with pride, nor disturbed with anger, or any sinful passion.

Q. 52. What must be your care concerning your body?
A. I must take care that it be not defiled by intemperance, uncleanness, or any fleshly lusts.

Q. 53. What must be your care concerning your words?
A. I must never tell a lie, nor mock at any body, nor call nicknames, nor speak any filthy words.

Q. 54. What is your duty to your parents and governors?
A. I must reverence and obey them in the Lord: I must thankfully receive their instructions, and submit to their rebukes, and labour in every thing to be a comfort to them.

Q. 55. What is your duty to the poor?
A. I must pity, help and relieve them, according to my ability.

Q. 56. What is your duty to all men?
A. I must render to all their dues; I must be honest and just in all my dealings; I must be respectful to my friends, and forgive my enemies, and speak evil of no man.

Q. 57. How are you able to perform this duty?
A. Not in any strength of my own, but in the strength of the graces of Jesus Christ, which I must ask of God for his sake.

Q. 58. What must you do when you find you come short of this duty?
A. I must renew my repentance, and pray to God for pardon in the blood of Christ, and be careful to do my duty better for the time to come.

Q. 59. What encouragement have you thus to live in the fear of God?
A. If I do so, I shall certainly be happy both in this world, and in that to come.

Part V. — Concerning the future State.

Q. 60. What will become of you shortly?
A. I must shortly die, and leave this world.

Q. 61. What becomes of the body at death?
A. It returns to the earth, to be raised to life again at the day of judgment.

Q. 62. What becomes of the soul then?
A. It returns to God who gave it, to be determined to an unchangeable state, according to what was done in the body.

Q. 63. What shall be the portion of the wicked and ungodly in the other world?
A. They shall all go to hell.

Q. 64. What is hell?
A. It is a state of everlasting misery and torment, in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

Q. 65. What shall be the portion of the godly in the other world?
A. They shall all go to heaven.

Q. 66. What is heaven?
A. It is a state of everlasting rest and joy with God and Jesus Christ.

Q. 67. What life then will you resolve to live in this world?
A. God’s grace enabling me, I will live a holy godly life, and make it my great car and business to serve God, and save my soul.

Except Ye Repent
By Dr. Harry Ironside

Pastor Harry A. Ironside

Chapter 10 – THEY REPENTED NOT

More than once in the Holy Scriptures we are distinctly told that God speaks to men in the wonders of creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3). Yet nature in itself, beautiful as it is in some things and unspeakably terrible in others, is not sufficient to bring guilty man to repentance. The marvels of the universe ought to convince any thoughtful mind that back of all this amazing machinery is a Creator and a controlling Master Hand to whom every intelligent being owes allegiance. But something more is needed to subdue the sinner’s proud spirit and bend his haughty will to submission, and it is here that the work of the Holy Spirit comes in, acting in power upon the conscience of the godless soul.

We have seen that, while the goodness of God was designed to lead man to repentance, yet, experiencing all the benefits of that goodness, men drifted farther and farther along the downward way that leads eventually to everlasting ruin. It is one of the facts hardest to explain that people who are grateful to their fellows for the smallest favors can yet be recipients of God’s goodness daily, and that in ten thousand different ways, and still ignore completely the Giver of all good forgetting that “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

We need not therefore be surprised that, on the other hand, the judgments of God expressed through what many regard simply as natural calamities also fail, in themselves, to produce repentance, even though they may fill men with fear, horror, and anxiety. Our Lord when predicting conditions that will prevail immediately before His return describes a world in chaotic upheaval, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, earthquakes in many places, the sea and the waves roaring, men’s hearts failing them for fear for looking after those things which are coming on the earth — yet no intimation of repentance because of sin and a turning to God for deliverance.

It was so in olden days. The prophet Amos furnishes us with a striking picture of the dire circumstances that Israel passed through in the days of her apostasy; but the horrors of famine, the loathsomeness of the plague, and the destruction wrought by fire, storm, and earthquakes, all alike failed to produce repentance. In this connection we cannot do better than read carefully a part of his fourth chapter, verses 6-12:

“And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”

These sore judgments are similar in character, though not nearly so severe, as those predicted to fall upon Christendom in the last days, when transgressions have come to the full. And in that day, just as when in God’s long-suffering toward Thyatira, He “gave her space to repent” and she repented not, so, three times over, we find the same thing declared concerning those who shall experience the sorrows of the tribulation era. In Revelation, after we pass the third chapter, we have a series of visions in which is set forth most graphically the climax of the age-long struggle between the forces of evil and those of righteousness. Often has it seemed to the doubting and half-hearted that the victory over sin was never to be won, but that the powers of darkness grew even stronger at times than they had been before. But faith could ever look forward to the triumph of the Lamb and His hosts over the dragon and his deluded followers. In these great visions the final outcome is clear — “A king shall reign in righteousness”; yea, righteousness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the great deep.

But ere that time there will come the last terrific struggle, when the wrath of God and of the Lamb shall be revealed from heaven, and the wrath of the devil will be manifested on the earth as never before. Ungodly men caught in the vortex of this dynamic crash of opposing forces will have to suffer indescribable anguish, if they persist in high-handed opposition to the Kingdom of God. But all that they shall be called upon to endure will fail to work repentance in their hearts.

However one may interpret the ninth chapter of the Apocalypse, there can be no question that it is a portent of a condition unspeakably evil which will prevail upon earth for a time, inflicting terrible physical and mental suffering upon men, and destroying millions of the race. Then note the solemn words of verses 20 and 21: “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.” It is evident that suffering does not necessarily produce repentance. Twice it is so stated in these two verses.

Advocates of the larger hope and universalists generally insist that all punishment is remedial and that eventually God will perfect through suffering all who now reject His grace. This passage lends itself to no such delusive dream. Those who are to endure the horrors of the judgments here depicted are not thereby brought to confess their sins and seek divine forgiveness. Instead, they harden themselves against God and persist in their immoral and ungodly behavior.

Yet it cannot be denied that suffering has had a very salutary effect on many people; but this does not refute the position taken above. When the grace of God co-operates with the trying circumstances to bring one to a sense of his personal need, his unworthiness of the divine favor, and his dependence on God for that which alone can enable him to rise above the adverse conditions in which he finds himself, suffering will be used to produce repentance. But where this is not the case it results in greater hardness of heart just as the same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay.

A kindred passage to that we have already been considering is Revelation 16:10-11: “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”

Here we see that the most intense anguish, instead of producing repentance, only hardens men in their sins and in fact leads them to add to the enormity of their guilt by blasphemously blaming God Himself for the distress which their own unholy ways have involved them in.

Again and again we have seen this principle exemplified in actual life. The student of history will recall how in past centuries, when wars, famines, and pestilences have decimated whole nations, the survivors in most cases have become worse rather than better. One thinks of the days of the plague in Paris in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when terror seized the populace, yet there was a turning from, instead of to, God, and the frenzied citizens plunged into all kinds of vile excesses and orgies of infamy in order to help them to forget the ever present danger.

If a small minority sought after God and recognized that the plague was His voice calling them to repentance, it was only because of His grace working in their hearts. And now that science has demonstrated the possibility of conquering such dire visitations as yellow fever, cholera, and bubonic plague by proper sanitation and extermination of vermin, the majority in place of gratefully owning the Creator’s goodness in making known such things to His creatures, that they may protect themselves against disease and physical suffering, actually deride religion and scorn the Word of the Lord, supposing that increased scientific knowledge has made the concept of an intelligent Creator and an overruling Deity unnecessary, if not altogether absurd.

In view of the well attested saying, that “character tends to permanence,” we may readily see what place these considerations should have as we contemplate what the Holy Scriptures reveal concerning the eternal destiny of those who leave this world impenitent and unreconciled to God. We would all like to believe that there is something cleansing in the great change called death, so that eventually all men will attain the beatific vision and become pure and holy, purged from all earth stains and fitted for fellowship with the infinitely righteous One. But the Scriptures positively declare the very opposite. There we learn of two ways to die and two destinies afterwards, according to the state of those who pass from time into eternity. The Lord Jesus Himself has said, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). And in verse 21 He declares, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” In Revelation 14:13 we read: “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”

Observe the vivid contrasts here. Some die in their sins; others die in the Lord. Those who die in their sins never go where Christ is; those who die in the Lord enter into rest and are rewarded for their devotion to their Redeemer. There is no hint that some post-mortem method of purification will be found whereby the first class will be brought to repentance and so to turn to Christ for the salvation they spurned on earth. And those who are in the Lord will never be in danger of apostatizing from the faith and losing at last the knowledge of the divine approval.

The solemn words of the Revelation 22:11, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still,” make this position doubly sure. Instead of death leading to a continued probation, we find that it rather settles forever the state of the saved and also of the lost. Character remains unchanged thereafter. The righteous continue righteous. The unrighteous continue in their unrighteousness. The holy remain holy for eternity. The unclean are defiled forever. And the reason is that the saved will then be fully conformed to the image of God’s Son, our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, while the unsaved will, by their own refusal to heed the message of grace, have become hardened in their sin so that they will be beyond all possibility of repenting.

“Sow an act, you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, you reap a character;
Sow a character, you reap a destiny.”

Our Lord’s story of the rich man and Lazarus has been treated by some as a parable solely, and by others as all intensely literal; while many see in it a true story in which figurative language is employed in part when describing the unseen world. But however one may take it, the solemn figure of “a great gulf fixed” and forever impassible either by those who would go from hell to paradise, or from paradise to hell, remains suggestive. It was surely intended to teach the impossibility that anything the wicked might suffer in another world would lead them to repent of their sins and seek to get right with God. The great lesson the Lord meant to impress upon every listener was the importance of repenting here and now, and not indulging the vain hope of some after-death purgatorial cleansing that would accomplish for the one who died impenitent what the believer may know on earth when he takes God at His word. “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” And if men now spurn the grace of God, trample on the blood of Christ, and do despite to the Holy Spirit, God Himself apparently has no other resources upon which to draw, no other means of bringing hardened sinners to repentance than are now in operation.

This accounts for the few among aged Christ-rejecters who repent ere called to give account to God. No one who has worked much in government hospitals, prisons, and other public institutions, where he has had to contact large numbers of hoary-headed sinners, can fail to realize how exceedingly difficult it is to deal with them about eternal things. Often has my very blood seemed to freeze in my veins as some aged blasphemer has cursed me for my temerity in seeking to tell him of Christ. Never have I heard such torrents of vile words poured forth from human lips as when such a one has openly expressed his hatred for God and his contempt for all things holy. One could not but realize that years of persistency in sin had hardened the heart and seared the conscience as with a hot iron, so that all desire for anything better had seemingly passed away, reminding one of the awful description of lost souls given in Revelation 18:14, where a literal translation would read, “the fruit season of thy soul’s desire has gone from thee.”

In the light of these considerations, how earnestly ought we who know Christ ourselves to seek after the lost and endeavor now, while the day of grace lingers, to bring men to repentance that they might come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and in turn be His messengers to others. But if we would do this we must be wise evangelists, not soothing unrepentant sinners to sleep with a “simple gospel” that has no place in it for showing them their great need, ere attempting to present the Remedy.

To Jeremiah God said, as we noticed in an earlier chapter, “Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns.” The ploughshare of God’s truth must needs break up hard hearts if we would hear men crying in anxiety, “What must I do to be saved?” When they see their lost condition they will be ready to appreciate the salvation provided in grace.

This is what our forefathers in the Gospel ministry called “law-preaching.” It was the application of the righteous commands of God to the souls of their hearers, in order that “sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” We may possibly have a better understanding of “the dispensation of the grace of God” than some of them, but do we get as good results from our so-called “clear Gospel sermons” as they did from their sterner preaching? We are apt to be so occupied with the doctrinal presentation of the Biblical truth of justification by faith alone that we forget the indifference of the masses to this or any other supernatural message, and so we really fail where we hoped to help. Never be afraid to insist on man’s responsibility to glorify God, and to drive home to his conscience the fact of his stupendous failure. Where there is no sense of sin, there will be no appreciation of grace. Do not daub with untempered mortar. Do not be in such a hurry to get to Romans 3:21 that you pass lightly and hastily over the great indictment of the entire human race in the preceding chapters. There is a world of meaning in Mary’s words: “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” It is the “poor in spirit” who appreciate the “riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”

Our Lord Himself has told us, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And we may be certain that only a sense of their sinfulness will lead any to avail themselves of the skill of the Great Physician. I have already said that this does not mean that men must pass through a certain amount of soul trouble or feel just so much compunction for sin ere they can be saved. But it does mean that men who have sinned with impunity, who have forgotten God, who have scoffed at His grace, or have trusted in a fancied righteousness of their own, should be brought through the Word and Spirit of God to a changed attitude that will make them eager for the salvation so freely offered.

An evangelist had noticed a careless young woman who throughout his preaching had giggled and chattered to an equally thoughtless youth. At the close an overzealous and most unwise “personal worker” stopped the girl at the door and asked, “Won’t you trust in Jesus tonight?” Startled, she replied, “Yes I will.” He directed her to the well known verse, John 3:16, and read it to her: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Do you believe that?” he inquired. “Sure, I believe it all,” was the ready reply. “Then, don’t you see, God says you have eternal life?” “O sure, I guess I must have,” she answered with nonchalance and passed out the door. Elated the young worker hurried to the evangelist with the information that “Miss — found peace tonight.” “Peace!” exclaimed the preacher. “Did she ever find trouble?” It was a good question. Far too many are talked into a false peace by ill-instructed persons who would not know what David meant when he exclaimed, “The pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3). It is the troubled soul who comes to Christ for rest.

How important that such should be urged to immediate decision lest, resisting the Spirit of God as He strives with them, they at last reach the place where they are given up to hardness of heart and “find no place of repentance,” though seeking it with tears. It is not that God will refuse to give repentance, but that there comes a time when it is too late to seek to change conditions that have become settled.

[Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948]

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